Turkey by itself — especially the breast meat — doesn’t have a ton of flavor and can run a little dry. For the best-tasting, juiciest turkey, most birds need a little help.
Here are the most popular ways to add richness, spice and excitement to your Thanksgiving turkey.
How to Add Flavor to Thanksgiving Turkey
Here are five sure-fire ways to flavor a turkey for a crowd-pleasing centerpiece to your Thanksgiving holiday meal!
1. Brine it
The white meat of turkey is not naturally juicy. To add both moisture and flavor, soak the bird in brine the night before you plan to cook it. It works wonders.
There is a fair amount of internet buzz for Alton Brown’s five-star-rated Good Eats Roast Turkey, which as of this posting has 4,007 reviews on Food Network. To make his brine, you basically make a tea using kosher salt, brown sugar, vegetable stock, peppercorns, allspice and candied ginger. Cool it down and then soak the bird in the mixture for 8 to 16 hours.
The results? See the reviews: “A HUGE hit,” “soooooo easy,” “awesome turkey flavor, mild, subtle, and what Thanksgiving is all about!”
2. Inject it
You can buy pre-injected turkey, though some are wary of these — a whole frozen turkey from Butterball, for example, includes “modified food starch, sodium phosphates (and) natural flavorings.”
You’ll know exactly what’s in the injection if you do it yourself. Granted, this requires some tools, but those who tried Brian Page‘s butter-injected turkey with thyme gave it “four forks” out of four on Epicurious.com.
“By putting the butter inside of the turkey it makes the turkey moist inside,” wrote one reviewer. “When the butter comes out into your water it makes it good for basting, because it helps brown the skin on the outside. I also use poultry seasoning, putting some on the inside and out.
3. Rub spices on the skin
Add flavor fast with a simple spice rub, which can range from basic to bold. One Cooking Light recipe packs tons of flavor, with cumin, coriander, oregano, sage, thyme, dry mustard and a little brown sugar.
Saveur has a recipe for a beautiful chile-rubbed Mexican turkey, involving toasted pasilla chiles, 30 cloves of garlic, orange juice, olive oil and honey.
4. Spread herb butter under the skin
No time to brine? This is a great last-minute technique that you can easily adapt for roast chicken, too.
Both Ina Garten and Martha Stewart offer step-by-step instructions for making a compound butter (with chopped herbs and lemon zest), then (in Martha’s case) loosening the skin of the bird and slathering the slightly softened butter underneath. Ina gets brown skin by brushing the melted butter mixture on top.
5. Stuff it
Take a lemon or an orange, a quartered Spanish onion or a full head of garlic, a bunch of rosemary or a few sprigs of thyme, and shove them into the cavity of the bird. (Apples are delicious, too.) This perfumes the meat lightly. Garlic left in its papery skin emerges melting and sweet, amazing spread on crusty bread.
The Ultimate Guide to all things Turkey
Check out our free downloadable Turkey Guide for everything you need to know about choosing, preparing and cooking your holiday turkey. Inside this popular guide you’ll also find tricks to making gravy, carving your bird, knowing when it’s done and how to keep left-overs safe. If you choose to grill your turkey this year, check out some of our grilling tips before you begin.
Whether it’s your first time cooking a turkey or you are a seasoned pro, this guide will have something for you.
Download your gThankYou Ultimate Turkey Guide now!
Happy Cooking! Let us know what you do to make your Thanksgiving Turkey it’s flavorful best.
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